William F. Dunne

The Struggle Against Opportunism in the Labor Movement – For a Socialist United States

A Contribution to the Discussion of Major Problems of Marxism-Leninism in Our Country

Chapter 6: Opportunist “Practicality” in Unions – Surrender to Suppression of Democratic Rights of Workers

The united front of labor against the blackmail and banditry program and anti-union drive of monopoly capital was broken at the CIO Convention, November, 1946.

The first battle in the campaign against wages, living standards and the freedom of unions and political rights in the U.S. was won by the monopoly capitalists who used infiltration tactics at the Atlantic City convention of the CIO–won by the Wall Street banks, industrial corporations, and their two-party, anti-labor government.

The Declaration of Policy on Communism, jointly drafted and unanimously adopted by the bloc of CIO officials–led by right-wing social democrats, Trotskyites, Christian Fronters and Coughlinites, titular leaders of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists and opportunist leaders of the Communist Party–unites all this motley bureaucracy for suppression of the political trade union democratic rights of the militant, rank-and-file membership. Honest delegates were confused by the deluge of demagogy and the failure of CP leaders to expose and oppose this representative policy. “Unity” at the expense of class-conscious workers and Communists, “unity” at the expense of the democratic rights of all workers as the way out of crises and war –this “unity” is the way to disaster.

Under the guise of “unity”, these reformist defenders of the capitalist system and the outright agents of the corporations within the CIO have succeeded in initiating the typical splitting tactic: organization of the leadership against the membership.

The leadership has become “respectable.” The next step that is inevitable in this backward direction is for this union leadership to guarantee a new high level of production per man hour, and this is already in force in many CIO shops and plants.

The last section of the resolution embodying the surrender to the most rabid exponents of the policy of monopoly capital (Hearst, the Chicago Tribune, the Daily News, Scripps-Howard papers, etc.) reads as follows:

“In pursuit of the principles set forth herein and adopted by the CIO Executive Board, we, the delegates to the Eighth Constitutional Convention of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, RESENT AND REJECT EFFORTS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OR OTHER POLITICAL PARTIES AND THEIR ADHERENTS TO INTERFERE IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE CIO. THIS CONVENTION SERVES NOTICE THAT WE WILL NOT TOLERATE SUCH INTERFERENCE.” (PM–Nov. 18–our emphasis)

Politically, this declaration puts the CIO back to where the American Federation of Labor was in 1923.

Forbids Independent Action

It prohibits, by the phrase, “political parties and their adherents,” any activity in the CIO in behalf of independent political action by the membership.

The only political action mentioned in the declaration (in the second paragraph) is the “nonpartisan,” ineffective kind of activity–ineffective and consequently inoffensive to the monopolist overlords–described as:

“... encouraged its membership to exercise its rights and obligations as citizens of the community by supporting progressive legislation affecting their economic and social well being.”

This, in connection with the repudiation of all independent political action, is a reversion to complete acceptance of the two capitalist parties, Democrat and Republican, as the only vehicles of political action for workers and their unions. This is what is meant by the phrase “within the framework of American political democracy.”

But the political slogan raised in this declaration of CIO policy is “social justice!” (Second line of fourth paragraph of text as printed in PM, Nov. 18, 1946.)

“Social justice” is the slogan of the Coughlinites (it is the name of the official Coughlinite organ) and Christian Fronters. It is the meaningless, demagogic slogan of all these anti-Semites, Negro-baiters and clerical-fascists–enemies of socialism and of the Soviet Union. It is the sign manual of reaction throughout the world; it is the shouted shibboleth with which they try to conceal their belief in the corporative, fascist state form of workingclass suppression and their support of counter-revolution.

No CP Opposition!

The revisionist leaders of the U. S. Communist Party, the National Board, in agreement with the revisionist leaders of CP who are also officials of unions, accepted this slogan unanimously! Not a single Communist leader spoke in opposition! Not a single CP delegate spoke against this open expression of reaction or opposed the obvious preparations to destroy what trade union democracy still survives in CIO!

Not a single CP member–or anyone else–rose to tell the convention, to tell the U.S. workingclass, or to tell the millions of working men and women throughout the world who are fighting reaction backed by Wall Street imperialism, that this declaration was not one of independence from, but rather one of surrender to, labor’s most vicious enemies.

What can the millions of seasoned workingclass, anti-fascist fighters–united with millions of Communist workers in the Soviet Union, China, Spain and the liberated countries of Western Europe (the front that saved us from fascist invasion)–think of this particular sentence in the CIO declaration?

“The CIO, as an American institution, has no interest apart from the interest of our people and our country.” (Tenth line, fifth paragraph, in PM text cited earlier.) But in this one sentence this “league of frightened men” categorically repudiated the international ties and obligations of labor organizations heretofore universally acknowledged, the ties called by Abraham Lincoln “the strongest bond uniting mankind...”

In this one sentence these betrayers of the most sacred of all labor’s traditions insulted and deserted in the face of the class enemy attack those millions of members of the World Federation of Trades Unions to which it is affiliated.

Strikes at Basic Right of All Workers

By so doing, they sabotaged the efforts of the WFTU to secure the right to speak for world labor in the name of its 70,000,000 members before the UNO and at the very time when this struggle was at a crucial stage!

The content of this CIO declaration is of a character no Communist, class-conscious working man or militant trade unionist can accept.

It strikes, in the weasel language of enemy propagandists, at the democratic rights and consequently at the morale of the rank-and-file membership. It is intended to justify a tighter, bureaucratic clamp on the rights of workers in the basic and heavy industries, where the majority of CIO membership works and which are the main preserves of monopoly capital. This move can work only in favor of the corporations. This is the key to this whole appeasement policy. And those officials, who accepted this policy, cannot be trusted to organize and lead the struggle against the anti-labor offensive.

It is the policy of the bent knee and bowed head to capitalism and its mercenaries; ridicule, slander, abuse and the gag for the exploited, dues-paying membership. What have the CP leaders who are also CIO officials been doing during the ten years and more they have held these influential positions?

It is the duty of every Communist to expose and oppose such a policy when directed against any section of union membership except fascist spies and spokesmen. To fail to do so is cowardice. To justify support of this demagogic reaction in the name of an organizational “unity” that is not and was not threatened, in the name of political “unity” that can only aid monopoly capital, is treachery.

This is what these revisionist CP leaders have done and are doing. By so doing, these refugees from the social revolution that is yet in the womb of time here in the U.S. have dragged the Communists–and their goal, socialism–and the class struggle on the political plane which is their method, in the mire of class collaboration for the second time in two years.

What a Contrast!

There was a Communist named Dimitroff who stood manacled in a Nazi court while the Hitlerite mobs howled for his blood. He used that Nazi court as a forum from which to warn the workingclass and the whole world of the true meaning of fascism, of what fascism meant for working men and women, for the Jews, for colonial peoples, small nations and national minorities.

But the CIO declaration of policy on communism has the sole purpose of appeasing these same anti-labor forces in the U.S., forces that appeased the fascist rulers, and kept them in power until they thought all popular resistance had been crushed. The world labor movement waited in vain for even one Communist Party voice raised in warning at the CIO Convention in Atlantic City.

These revisionist CP leaders not only failed to oppose but actually supported this appeasement–and not only at the CIO Convention but in the Daily Worker. They call it “unity”–but it is this kind of “unity” that brings fascism into power. These revisionist demagogues probably will even have the gall to quote Dimitroff in an attempt to justify their own opportunist cowardice.

History repeats itself, said Marx –once as a tragedy, and then as a farce!

The performance by these refugees from the class struggle is farce-tragedy, if one can use such a term: tragedy, because it marks the open and absolute desertion of a great and militant tradition in the organized labor movement; farce, because in spite of the demagogy, and the red herring of “interference” by political parties, the sickly cowardice and politically backward character of the “resolution on Communist policy” is apparent. The CIO leadership (Murray-Carey) is solidly in the official ranks of the Democrat party. Only faint vestiges are left of the so-called independent groupings which never got beyond the stage of appendages of the Democrat party.

Twenty-three years ago, in Portland, Oregon, one lone Communist delegate told Philip Murray, William Green, John L. Lewis and Matthew Woll, at the 43rd Annual A.F. of L. Convention, where their anti-Communist policy, their “efficiency” unionism, and their appeasement of the employers, would lead the unions, including the United Mine Workers.

By 1929-30, the wreckage of the UMWA–i.e., what was left of a once powerful union–was being rescued by Communists in a dozen hard-fought battles from Illinois and western Pennsylvania through Ohio and West Virginia to Harlan and Pine counties in Kentucky.

It Happened Before

The defeatist policy of appeasing the mine operators at the expense of the mine workers had reduced the mighty UMWA to a skeleton and resultant impotence. The AFL itself had likewise been reduced to a skeleton–perhaps 2,000,000 dues-paying members in all its unions–by the same policy.

By reorganizing old unions, by organizing industrially in so-called federal labor unions, by organizing independent industrial unions, by organizing the unemployed and by eliminating strike-breaking during the worst period of the crisis and depression, the Communists by 1935 had built new broad foundations for industrial unionism in all the heavy industries. The Communists brought militant industrial unionism to the South.

And it was to Lewis and Murray, in 1935-36, that was presented a nationwide network of growing industrial unions, unions built by the Communists and by thousands of other unpaid, volunteer organizers, speakers and tacticians–and the most courageous and competent staff of organizers this or any other country ever developed in the industrial union field.

It was after this that Earl Browder and his corps of revisionists began to liquidate CP groups in the unions, dropped the fight for democratic union rights, and made Lewis a gift of the CP, its press, and its organizers.

Murray’s first meeting in Pittsburgh as head of the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee was organized by Communists. They were the only ones who could combat effectively the tight control exercised by Mussolini’s consulates over Italian steel workers and that exercised by clerical-fascists among both the Italians and the Poles.

A Lesson From 1923

History repeats itself: It was Philip Murray who, in 1923, at the Portland, Oregon A.F. of L. Convention, made the motion to unseat the lone Communist delegate mentioned above. The delegate was unseated–and the press from coast to coast hailed this as a great victory for “democracy.”

But before this delegate was unseated he said (there was more democracy then in the AFL than there is now in the CIO):

“Speaking as a Communist, since the issue has been raised, although I came here as a trade unionist and not as a Communist, I understand the real reasons for the effort you are now making.

“YOU WANT TO PROVE TO THE EMPLOYERS THAT YOU ARE MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN THEY ARE, THAT YOU LOVE THE WAGE SYSTEM EVEN MORE ARDENTLY THAN THEY DO. You have succeeded in gaining a great deal of immunity for yourselves, BUT THIS IMMUNITY DOES NOT EXTEND TO THE ORGANIZATIONS YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO REPRESENT. In that the employers and we Communists think alike. They, too, make a distinction between a high-salaried official and the workingclass.


“It is here we see the divergence of interest between the membership and officialdom... of the pleasure and profit of peddling your influence for the benefit of one or the other of the parties of the employers.

”You seem to believe that capitalism is in its heyday; we do not; we say that this is the twilight of capitalism and that unless the labor movement changes its policies and tactics it is going to be caught and dragged down in the general chaos that capitalism is bringing in the train of its collapse... WE ARE ABOUT TO ENTER ANOTHER PERIOD OF DEPRESSION... WHAT OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT? HAS IT RECOVERED THE LOSSES IT SUSTAINED? YOU KNOW IT HAS NOT. IT WILL FACE ANOTHER OPEN SHOP DRIVE WITH LESS CONFIDENCE... WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER TO THIS? A WAR UPON THE ’RADICALS’ IN COOPERATION WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, AN APPEAL FOR AID FROM THE EMPLOYERS IN THIS HOLY CAUSE...”

(From speech by William F. Dunne on motion by Philip Murray to unseat Dunne.)

Appeasers Never Learn

The same creeping paralysis which set in among the unions as a result of the anti-Communist crusade and policy of cooperation with the corporations will not now overtake the labor movement as a whole in spite of this surrender by sections of CIO leadership to the propaganda campaign of the monopolists and the efforts of the leaders to turn back the clock. For hypocrisy does not turn the trick quite the way it used to in the old days! The workingclass has learned much in the last 16 years–but appeasers never learn!

Millions of workers have learned now to look behind such fervent expressions of devotion to the ”four freedoms” as occur in the CIO Declaration of Policy on Communism–which includes ”freedom of speech for everyone every where.” This is advertised as a very ”subtle” slap at the Soviet Union and at the alleged ”iron curtain.” But it can be seen that ”everywhere” obviously does not include the CIO itself; otherwise there would be no excuse for the main Policy declaration. This is the sort of cheap chicanery with which an officialdom engaged in “emancipating the workingclass one at a time” (beginning with themselves of course) tries to evade issues which under slightly changed conditions can mean life or death to the labor movement.

They have made the same kind of mistake made in 1923.

They thought then they were dealing with just one Communist, not with living issues affecting the lives of millions.

They think now that the class struggle policy will disappear from the discussions and struggles in and of the CIO unions, just because these leaders have abandoned the task of winning the workingclass for a socialist program.

The bureaucracy is welcome to these CP leaders. They belong in that camp–and the sooner the workingclass membership of the CP understands this, exposes these leaders and the National Board and National Committee that placed its imprimatur upon their desertion of Marxist-Leninist theory, their rejection of the struggle for the socialist goal of the workingclass–defeats and ousts them, then the sooner can the grave injury done to the CIO and the struggle for a united front against the capitalist offensive be overcome.

Betrayal by Leaders

It was betrayal when workingclass CP members and class conscious workers, who did not want to aid either Dewey and the war-mongering anti-labor Republican Party or Mead and the war-mongering anti-labor Democratic Party of Truman and Byrnes, were herded into the latter party against their will by Machiavellian intrigues. By withdrawing the CP candidate for governor the CP’s left off the ballot for four more years. This piece of skullduggery has now been followed by a denunciation of the Communist Party itself (communism and socialism) arranged and agreed to in the highest official circles of the CP and of the CIO–by these same revisionist Communist Party leaders.

If the policy expressed in this CIO declaration is allowed to stand, if these revisionist deserters of the social revolution and apostles of appeasement are allowed to continue to pose as Communists and militant leaders of unions, then the results might well be disastrous in this present period of the gathering offensive by monopoly capital and its government.

This shall not happen.

Proletarian members of the CP will now begin open political struggle against these defeatists. Communists who have been driven out of the CPUSA for exposing the anti-Marxist and anti-workingclass nature of the program of these CP and union wreckers will close ranks and rally workers around a program of class struggle and the immediate organization of the campaign to win the support of the mighty workingclass of the U.S. for a socialist program.

Struggle Is Necessary

The struggle against revisionist program and against defeatist leadership in the CP; the work of rallying the rank-and-file Marxist-Leninist forces in the organized labor movement and among all sections of the workingclass, among the Negro people and working farmers, can and will be integrated.

The left wing of the labor movement will now reject opportunism and appeasement as a policy and will reorganize and strengthen its lines.

By making the theory and practice of Marxist-Leninism–the laws of motion of capitalist society in this imperialist period and how to use them to advance the cause of the workingclass–available to and the weapon of the entire labor movement and the workingclass, we will meet and defeat the offensive of monopoly capital and its shock-troops against our living standards, political rights, our unions and political parties. Nothing said here is intended to prove that the CIO leadership is to the right of the A.F. of L.

The main difference consists in the fact that the greater part of the membership of the major CIO unions work in giant mass production industries and marine transport which are the domain of the magnates who rule the union of bank and industrial capital, the particular form of monopoly capital–finance capital–in this imperialist era.

Here, in these industrial networks, hundreds of thousands of workers have learned the utter futility of isolated protest and combat against the economic and political might of these corporations and government agencies.

Membership Makes Difference

The great struggles which brought many of these CIO unions into being are still fresh in the memories of great sections of these workingmen and women. They are more conscious of their class power and of their relations with workers in other industries and other countries. This, in the main, accounts for the more advanced political views and class solidarity of the CIO membership.

It is all the more regrettable that this great bloc of organized workers should have had the antidemocratic and defeatist resolution of “Declaration of Policy on Communism” foisted upon them by the action of bureaucrats animated by fear of monopolists, their propagandists and government–and hatred and fear of independent political workingclass anti-capitalist struggle.

Political Rights

It is now more than ever necessary to open and continue a campaign among the rank and file of both the CIO and A.F. of L. unions, to restore, defend and extend basic trade union political rights. This resolution is an unmistakable signal for the need of such a campaign–to show to them that entrenched and high salaried officials can and do have economic and social interests which are not those of the on-the-job membership.

Under no circumstances must such a campaign, essential as it is to the question of class relationships in the struggle to win the main body of the workingclass for the socialist solution, be allowed to become merely an anti-leadership movement. This would defeat its purpose. “It is the anarchist method,” Lenin wrote, “to work always from below and never from above.”

The necessary distinctions must always be made between those leaders and officials of various categories who merely make mistakes–and those who are, as the clerical phrase goes–“confirmed in sin.” Class loyalty is the decisive test. Which class do their programs, policies, acts and utterances serve in the long run–the workingclass or the exploiting, employing class? This is decisive.